JIS News

As members of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) meet in Kingston this week for the annual review and planning workshop, Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke, is charging the Institute to find ways to improve agricultural production in Caribbean economies, to ensure the region’s competitiveness on the world market.
The Minister, who was addressing the opening ceremony of the weeklong workshop at the Pegasus Hotel today (July 25), called for more emphasis to be placed on research and ensuring that farmers has access to relevant information.
“There can’t be this juncture between what we do in research and what is done on the ground. We have to be competitive and we have to say to the world, after we have identified the areas in which we have a competitive edge, we are the best at this and .you can’t match us,” the Minister said.
He acknowledged that CARDI faced the problem of lack of sufficient resources to meet the demands of all the members of CARICOM, but expressed confidence that as the group meets this week, its conclusions, plans and programmes would be for the benefit of the community. “What you do must reflect what we, the member states, have asked you to do,” Minister Clarke stated.
Turning to the sugar industry, which has come under serious threats in recent times, the Minister said that the proposed 39 per cent cut in the price of the product being proposed by the European Union, would place the industry in “very serious problems”.
The Minister pointed out, that while many persons were saying that Jamaica should get out of sugar, they have not been able to say what the alternative produce should be. “There are many things that we can do but one has to understand that with almost everything we do in agriculture there is a challenge,” he said.
The agriculture sector, he emphasized, was being challenged in a very serious way and CARDI, being the premier research organization in CARICOM, must now continue to play that critical role in advancing efficient agricultural production in the region. “As small, vulnerable states, the sector faces many challenges (such as) competition because of World Trade Organization’s restrictions and the opening up of our markets sometimes to dumped products, problem of economics of scale, high cost of inputs and changing weather patterns,” he said, mentioning the two hurricanes the region experienced this month.
Mr. Clarke also pointed to the inability of farmers to access development capital, noting that it was easier to get a loan to buy a used car than for farming. “Then we have the continuing threat of pest and diseases,” he added.
He commended CARDI, for its work over the years, to create an agricultural sector that could play its part in ensuring food security, rural development and empower rural people. “As you meet today to ponder your next move, you must understand that much is at stake and your actions or inactions means life or death to many of us,” Minister Clarke informed the group.